Divorce & Family Law
At Smith Debnam, we understand that family law matters can be complex, challenging, and emotionally taxing. Our goal is to provide you with compassionate, comprehensive legal support during these difficult times. Whether you are navigating the process of divorce, seeking custody or visitation rights, or grappling with domestic violence issues, our experienced team of family law attorneys is here to guide and advocate for you.
At Smith Debnam, we understand the emotional landscape that accompanies the complex legal issues of divorce and family law. We know that you’re not just navigating legal challenges – you’re also grappling with a significant life transition that can come with broken dreams, a sense of loss, and feelings of abandonment.
Navigating Personal Turmoil
A divorce or separation often means contending with the dissolution of a shared life, a life in which dreams and expectations were intertwined. We understand the pain of these shattered dreams, the feelings of uncertainty, and the loss of self that can accompany such a profound life change. At Smith Debnam, we’re not just your legal advocates, we’re also your compassionate partners, providing thoughtful support to help you transition towards a new chapter in your life.
Uncertainty of Change
We understand the stress caused by the uncertainty of change – the fear of the unknown. What will it mean for your relationships outside of marriage, your circle of friends, or your standing in society? How will it affect your interactions with coworkers or your financial stability? Our experienced team of family law attorneys will not only provide you with a roadmap for the legal process but also guide you through these personal uncertainties, helping you establish new footing and navigate the unknowns.
The ripple effect of divorce or separation can extend to your entire social sphere. We understand the worry about judgments, the concern over shifting friendships, and the discomfort in social settings. At Smith Debnam, we’re here to reassure you that while the landscape may change, this period of transition can also be an opportunity for growth, resilience, and newfound independence.
OVER 40 YEARS
With Smith Debnam, you’re not just gaining a law firm – you’re gaining a team of compassionate advocates and allies. Our commitment to excellence extends beyond the courtroom and into our understanding of the emotional challenges you’re facing. Our experienced team of attorneys will guide you through the legal complexities while providing emotional support and understanding to help you navigate your new circumstances.
Our family law team is bolstered by the unparalleled experience of Michael Denning and Kristin Ruth. Having both served as Wake County District Court judges, they bring a unique, in-depth understanding of the North Carolina Family Law system. Their years of judicial experience set Smith Debnam apart, providing our clients with an unmatched perspective and expertise.
Our team is further distinguished by the fact that five of our eight attorneys are Board Certified Family Law Specialists by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, a testament to their expertise, dedication, and recognition within the legal community. In addition, four of our attorneys are Certified Family Financial Settlement Mediators by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission, which ensures that we can provide effective, thoughtful negotiation strategies during mediation proceedings.
A Commitment to Excellence
Our commitment to delivering the highest level of legal representation in all areas of family law is what distinguishes Smith Debnam from other firms. Our unparalleled team of attorneys has the training, experience, and dedication to help you through the toughest of times, ensuring you are well-represented, protected, and informed every step of the way.
With Smith Debnam, you’re not just gaining a law firm – you’re gaining a team of compassionate advocates and allies. We believe in standing by your side, offering you the sound legal advice, emotional understanding, and compassionate guidance you need during this challenging time. Contact us for a confidential consultation and let us help you navigate through your Divorce & Family Law matters in North Carolina.
Comprehensive Family Law Services
At Smith Debnam, we offer a wide range of family law services, covering everything from adoptions to the termination of parental rights. We recognize that every family situation is unique and requires a personalized approach.
FAQs about Divorce & Family Law
It is in a person’s best interests to hire an attorney for his or her case, one who is committed to not only educating him or her about rights and obligations, but who is also there to serve as an advocate. A good family law attorney knows the law inside and out and stays current on updates that may affect the case. A good attorney also knows important deadlines and the proper procedure for filing documents at the court. Many attorneys have good relationships with judges and other attorneys, who can often help an individual’s case.
When a person contacts Smith Debnam for help with a family law issue, he or she first speaks with a knowledgeable paralegal who will ask some questions about the case and can schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. The consultation is an important step in the process. It gives the client an opportunity to ask detailed questions and evaluate if the attorney is a good fit for his or her case. When clients come in for the initial consultation, they need to bring any documents that are relevant to the matter. For example, clients should bring previous agreements or court pleadings that the attorney will need to review to advise them correctly. If they are coming in for a consultation to begin the separation process, clients should bring documents evidencing marital debts and assets. Once an individual chooses to retain the attorney for his or her case, that client is assigned a paralegal to walk them through the process. That paralegal will assist the client in preparing the documents necessary for the court process or work with him or her to gather documents necessary to negotiate settlement documents. The paralegal will also be in regular contact regarding approaching deadlines. The attorney educates clients about their rights and obligations and sets goals and milestones based on specific situations. Being honest about all the details of the case from the beginning is essential to the process. We want all of our clients to feel comfortable with our attorneys and trust that they will guide them in the right direction and help make responsible decisions for each family.
In North Carolina, there is a filing fee payable to the clerk of court in the county in which the action is being filed to initiate the lawsuit for a divorce. Additionally, there is a fee for service or actual delivery of the lawsuit to the opposing party. Service is typically accomplished by certified mail or by sheriff, and those costs vary. The filing fee for a claim for absolute divorce is $225.00 The service fee for the sheriff’s office is $30.00 Certified mail varies in cost, but it is typically $4.00 – $6.00 If a person chooses to hire an attorney to handle his or her divorce, that attorney will charge a reasonable fee for the time spent to draft the necessary documentation to complete the divorce and to appear in court on his or her client’s behalf, if necessary. The best way to get an estimate for the total cost of a divorce is to set up an initial consultation with an attorney to review the details of the case.
t often takes longer than a client believes it should to get a divorce. The actual dissolution of a marriage can generally take as little as 45 – 60 days, but resolving other issues regarding child custody, child support, alimony and/or property division can take months to conclude, if not longer.
North Carolina divorce laws state that once a couple has been separated for one year, either spouse may file a lawsuit asking the court to dissolve the marriage. However, handling the other issues surrounding the divorce including child custody, child support, alimony and/or property division may not be as simple. Assuming all of the other issues are resolved, obtaining a divorce is a relatively simple process.
If a spouse will not agree to separate, the other spouse may have several options. In some instances, it may be advisable for the spouse desiring a separation to make the first move and actually leave the marital residence to begin the period of separation. Depending upon the specific facts, other options may be available. Every option carries with it some level of risk, whether legal and/or financial. For that reason, it is always advisable to seek the legal counsel of an attorney regarding the rights, risks, and obligations triggered by a separation before deciding to initiate a separation.
A married couple must be separated for at least one year before either spouse can file for the divorce.
A husband and a wife become separated only when they begin living apart from each other, in different residences, with at least one of the spouses intending for the separation to be permanent, and the separation remains permanent. A couple, by their actions, can resume their marital relationship following a separation. In that event, their original date of separation no longer applies. The date of separation is important for at least two reasons:
- It starts the clock running on the one-year waiting period that is required for filing a divorce.
- It is the date upon which the marital property and debts are valued for the purpose of being divided.